The days leading up to a wedding are a blur of details and checklists. As a pastor I’ve officiated ceremonies from 5 to 500 attendees, and have discovered stunning similarities. The level of complication may vary in scale, but the pressure for brides and grooms is similar no matter what the size. Pressing decisions about a 30-minute ceremony and a 4-hour reception often interrupt a young couple’s ability to plan for life after the rice is thrown.
After the dust settles, the honeymoon is over, and duplicate gifts have been returned, young newlyweds can finally set about the real work of establishing a marriage. Whatever your geography, age or education, executing on these three decisions will set the compass of your marriage to true North.
Find a church.
Your marriage is your most essential earthly relationship. It makes sense that a growing relationship with the Author of this covenant would come in handy in the coming years. When discovering how to have a successful marriage, who better to lean on and learn from than the One who invented it?
God uses the voices of other Christians to speak truth, hope and encouragement into our marriages. No matter how firm your relationship with your spouse, you will benefit by being plugged into healthy Christian community.
Find a church you can both agree to attend weekly. Then do it. Go. Don’t miss. Develop a pattern of consistency, and get plugged in. No church is perfect but neither is any couple. Getting grounded in your faith will lay the foundation for your future.
Start a budget.
Hoping your finances will work without a budget is like hoping you can assemble a jigsaw puzzle in the dark. It’s just not realistic and it’s just not fun.
Regardless of your income level, it is your responsibility to manage your finances well. I’ve counseled dozens of couples that are having money trouble, and I inevitably discover that they have no written plan for their money. Countless marital conflicts could be avoided or minimized if a husband and wife simply agreed to a plan and then worked it like it was their job.
You don’t have to be an accountant to start a budget. Heck, you don’t even need to buy a book. Just sit down with your spouse, your pay stubs and your bills. Agree to not draw conclusions of any kind until you do the math for a month. Then add your income, list all of your expenses, and you’ll have a picture of where your money is going. From there you can begin to tell your money where to go. It’s that simple.
Discover who you married.
Marriage is an adventure. The first months have the potential to be memorable, even magical. Sure, you’re bound to bump into adjustment issues. Figuring out all of your spouse’s quirks will take years, let along becoming aware of your own. But in the midst of making necessary adjustments, don’t forget that your spouse is a gift you get to unwrap for a lifetime.
In the run-up of a marriage, I routinely witness couples invest in everything but their relationship. In the weeks and months after the wedding, make sure you spend time to discover just who your spouse is. Try new things. Go new places. Even if they’re cheap or free, there is simply no substitute for spending time together. Read a book about marriage before bed. Watch movies. Or just sit and talk over coffee.
Simply experience as much of life together as you possibly can.
Years from now, with kids in tow, you’ll look back fondly on that spur-of-the-moment road trip or those late night trips for takeout. As you enter new stages of life, you’ll have a strong relational foundation to build on.
Every relational investment you make in the first months of your marriage will pay dividends for a lifetime. Take these three steps, and you’ll enjoy the payout for decades to come.